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Presidential campaign hits Illinois

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Let the hand shaking and baby kissing begin.

The Republican presidential candidates are out in full force in Chicago suburbs ahead of Tuesday’s primary. Mitt Romney kicked off Friday’s campaign madness with an early visit to diner Pancakes Eggcetera in Rosemont, IL. Romney shook hands, told some jokes, posed for pictures and even kissed a baby.

“I always [take the] chance to hold ‘em and kiss ‘em,” Romney said to nearby diners, “Particularly if the diapers are dry.”

As supporters ate pancakes and scrambled eggs, Romney spoke about how the high gas prices are hurting families and touted his experience in the private sector, calling President Barack Obama a “lightweight” on economic issues. He also encouraged the audience to help get their friends and neighbors to the polls next week.

“I need you all to vote, and by the way, you’re allowed to vote multiple times by getting a friend to go with you - I know this is Chicago I had to clarify,” he said.

Romney wasn’t the only presidential candidiate hitting the pavement in Illinois on Friday. Rick Santorum is scheduled to speak to high schoolers in Arlington Heights, IL, in the afternoon, as well as lead a rally there later in the evening. Even President Obama was in town--he held two fundraising events in downtown Chicago. Candidates New Gingrich and Ron Paul were spotted shaking hands around the state earlier in the week.

But it’s not all fun and games on the campaign trail.

Democratic US Rep. Jan Schakowsky protested with women outside the Romney event Friday morning, holding signs that said, “Keep Your Mitt(s) off birth control. Romney has said he’d get rid of Planned Parenthood if elected. Schakowsky called the pledge “unacceptable.”

The Republican candidates are expected to continue their campaigning next week, before Tuesday’s primary election.

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